Sex and the Praying Mantis

Mandy came down from putting the baby to bed and looked over at David with a frown on her face.

‘It’s not like they get a choice though, it’s like, one of them ‘cultural imperative’ things!’

        David looked up from the magazine he was reading and gave her a scathing look.

          ‘Are you still goin’ on about that!?  And “cultural imperative”?  What on earth are you talking about?  They’re insects, they don’t have a bloody culture!’ 

He went back to his magazine, shaking his head.  Mandy wandered over and snatched the magazine from his hands.  She closed it theatrically in front of him and slapped it down onto the coffee table.

          ‘Well, a natural imperative then, or whatever it is.  I’m just saying that the female ones have no choice but to bite the head off the males.  It’s the only way they get pregnant.’

          David opened his mouth to speak, but Mandy continued to talk.

          ‘And then even with their babies, it’s the mother’s instinct to protect them.  I’ve seen nature programmes where a male Lion just abandoned a cub when it got injured.  It was awful.’

          ‘I think you watch too many bloody nature shows, you’ll be wearing a loincloth and yodelling next.  It’s just survival of the fittest hun, “The Law of The Jungle”.  Why are you so concerned anyway?’

          ‘No reason, just making conversation.’

           Mandy plopped herself down on the couch beside David, leaning away from him as she continued her train of thought.

          ‘But it makes you wonder though, doesn’t it?  About their evolution? Like, what kind of thing in its life makes a creature decide the best way to conduct a relationship is to bite off the chaps’ head?  Or leave the kids behind?  Maybe they met your ancestors, eh?’

          David feigned looking hurt and gave her a playful tap on the arm with his fist.

‘You’re skating on thin ice now, I’ll bite your bloody head off!’

          Mandy made evil eyes at him jokingly and pointed to his crotch.

‘Yeah?  Well it’s that head you should be worried about, mi lad!  You’d soon cry if I bit that off.’

          David winced, sucked in breath through his teeth and held up his hands.

Alright, point taken.  I know what you mean though.  I suppose they just do it for survival’s sake.  Same with leavin’ their weak kids behind.  As I said, “Law of The Jungle”.’

          The room went quiet then as they both sat there together, lost in their thoughts.  Mandy was frowning and as David leaned over to pick up his magazine again, she spoke.

          ‘I suppose they’d do anything to survive.  Most animals would, wouldn’t they?’

          ‘All animals would, love.  When it comes to living or dying, there’s no middle ground.  It’s kill or be killed; live and let die.’

          Mandy considered his reply for a moment and then looked at him.

‘Would they put their survival above their own kids, do you think?’

          ‘Yeah’ He replied ‘I think they probably would.  Why, Mand?  What’s this about?’

          ‘Oh, nothing.  It’s ok.’

          Upstairs, the baby started crying again.

Downtime/The Nexus

The two short exercises below were created as part of a homework assignment to create a ritual and describe it from the point of view of a native familiar with the ritual and then the point of view of an unseen observer who was unfamiliar with the same ritual.



It’s funny how it’s always the same people who go into Downtime at the same time as me.  There’s the ‘office guy’, the grungy ‘alternative’ girl, the bookish student who always seems unsure of what she’s doing and of course, the ‘big dumb jock’.  I guess in our private little Breakfast Club, I’d be the loner, the guy who never quite fits in.  ‘Fitting in’ is a thing of the past now though, of course.

We all arrive at the booth at more or less the same time.  Dumb Jock is always last, dragging his feet in reluctantly.  He always has some smart mouthed comment for one of us, we always ignore him.  I like the booths, the beds are comfy, the sheer white of the walls makes me feel kind of pure, like after every Downtime I’m born again.  There’s still no better way of connecting to the Link.  This way has worked for years, with only a few neural overloads to speak of.  Acceptable losses.

It happens, as it always does, when we lie down on the beds.  The ‘trodes snake their way out of the underside of the bed and slide gracefully into the ports on our collarbones.  I love the tingly feeling you get as the connection is made and the reassuring click of the ‘trode into the port.  Office Guy doesn’t seem to like it much.  I guess he was an Original, he’s old enough to be one.

I can feel a woozy grin on my face as I slip down into the Dream, like I’m the happiest drunk in the world.  Everything goes dark for a moment as I close my eyes and feel the data begin to stream out of me.  Nothing else matters except the Stream now.  I feel the grin widen as I remember the TV ads; ‘Stream into the Dream, because caring is sharing!’

I’m dimly aware that something is wrong in the room, Bookish Student is convulsing.  There’s something wrong with her Stream.  Her gurgling and choking is the last thing I hear before the Dream hits.  Acceptable losses.


The Nexus

As I watch the feed on the camera, four people enter the small pod, followed a little later by a fifth.  They all seem like ordinary people; there’s an office worker, three students and another guy who thinks he’s a student or some kind of non-conformist anyway.  They don’t have much interaction with each other, aside from the male student saying something off colour to the girl in the ripped cardigan.  She flips him the finger before settling down on her cot.

That’s when it gets strange.  All five of them lie down, each one like the limb of a five pointed star, their heads close together in the centre of the structure.  I watch in confusion as wires seem to move from under the cots, as if they were alive and aware somehow.  These wires then move with purpose until they are pressed into the collarbone of each person.  At first I thought they had stabbed their way into the body, in the manner of a needle, but I was wrong.  In fact the wires entered the body through what appeared to be an access port on the bone.  I had no idea what to make of this.  Were these people actually machines?  Some kind of cyborg?

I continue to watch, fascinated and horrified at the same time by this spectacle in front of me.  This connection to the wires doesn’t seem to be harming the five of them, in fact they all look happy, peaceful almost, as the wires settled against their bodies, like a snake resting on a branch.  Then something begins to happen to one of the girls.  She tenses up, her whole body held tight for a few seconds before she begins to flail around, her hands unconsciously pulling at the wire.  She begins to foam at the mouth, and the foam begins to turn bloody as she bites into her tongue.  None of the others move or show any awareness.  No alarms sound.  While I’m still trying to take in what I’m seeing, the feed goes dark.

After the Crowd Have Gone/After the Crowd Have Gone – Unreliable Narrator

Written as part of an exercise in my Building the World class, the work below experiments with building a single room based on the stereotype of a faded sports star.  The work below the line is the same room, described by an unreliable narrator (Someone who is biased in some way and cannot be trusted to give a truthful description).

The room was a shrine to nostalgia.  Through afternoon light, dust motes danced in the shafts of sunlight breaching the hallowed place, reaching in like adoring fans used to do; begging for an autograph, a chance to touch the champ.  The floor, wooden and once polished to a spectacular sheen, was now rough and coarse in places, years of varnish peeled away in others like ancient skin on decaying bones.

The air was musty, smelling faintly of Mentholatum.  It lingered, recalling days gone by, when aching muscles were a consequence of action and competition, instead of a cold wind or sleeping uncomfortably in a chair.  Accompanying that bitter smell was the hushed smell of dust.  It whirled through the sunlight, infecting every corner of the room with forlorn memories.

Along the wall hung posters, each heralding a triumphant clash of wills.  All faded by time and neglect, their colours muted, the bombastic boasts silenced by the weight of years.  They were joined by a punching bag.  Heavy, leather and old, worn down through use.  It now hung limply from its bracket, useless to the arthritic hands of the one who owned it.

A shelf graced the other wall, gathering dust like everything else in the room and displaying trophies and statuettes, all covered in an ever present blanket of neglect.  They resonated with a melancholy that reached back from a better time.  Even the newspaper clippings, tacked so lovingly underneath the shelf, were yellowed and curled but spoke of fitness and youth and vitality.

In the middle of it all, he dozed; a relic in a reliquary of his own making.  A small, faded man.  His face worn and wrinkled by time and a thousand punches.  His hands, once strong and powerful, now nothing more than claws, warped by arthritis.  He sat and he slept, dreaming of a boxing ring long ago and a young man who was somebody.

This room smelled old.  As soon as I walked through the door, all I could smell was stale old, muscle gel.  The light was very dim, as if this whole place was from an old movie or one of those vintage photographs.  Everything was covered in dust, it coated all of the trophies and shelves like an old jacket.  Posters lined the wall, ranging in age from really old to just plain old.  They advertised fights and fighters I’ve never even heard of, much less care about.  The old guys trophies sat on a shelf, I think they might have been golden once, but now they were the colour of weak piss and not very impressive.

He even had a punching bag in here, a huge one that looked black, but I think might have been brown.  It looked like heavy leather.  It hadn’t been touched for decades, I was tempted to go over and give it a smack, but I was pretty sure it would fall off if I did.  Under the trophies, the old guy had newspaper clippings from his glory days.  Catchy headlines that told of his wins and the power of his punches.  Didn’t have any relevance to me, this guy couldn’t teach me anything anymore.

Speaking of which, there was the old guy himself.  He was sat in the middle of all this crap, like a crusty king on a throne of dust.  His hands were all twisted and looked like claws and his breath wheezed out of him as he dozed.  He was tiny, not the guy I’d seen in those old film clips.  It was as if someone had dropped him in a washing machine and shrunk him.  The champ?  Once, maybe.  Now though, he was just a lonely old has been.


When the girl first opened her eyes, all I could see was the fear. It was palpable; pouring off her with the rapidly dispersing mist of her death-caul. Not long after the fear, came the confusion. Where was she? Was she dead? Is this heaven? Hell? These would probably be the first few questions that new mouth of hers would ask, had I not chosen that very moment to speak. Continue reading

Alone In The Dark

Wild doe eyes darted back and forth, scanning the room in front of her, hoping she was alone.  She couldn’t see very well, the darkness had clawed its way through the kitchen slowly, transforming it into an unknown and danger filled maze.  The windows and patio doors were stark and black, the gloom outside promised to spill forth more of the unbelievable horrors she had seen tonight.  Continue reading